Sunday, September 30, 2012

Healthcare: My Struggles with a Complex System

Earlier this month my decided to be less cooperate and developed a condition that I still don’t understand. So far I’ve been to “the doctor” 3 times and visited the pharmacists’ after each visit. I’ve missed more days this month that I’ve missed in the previous 3 years. I was even tested for Whooping Cough (I don’t have it).

I am dealing with a complex system that I don’t understand. Right now this system is important to me, so I am forced to wade through it the best I can. Perhaps this is the way non-nerds teal with technology and other things that I deal with every day.

First I didn’t know how to enter the system. I had the cough for over a week and things weren’t getting better; I hadn’t bothered to doctor up before the crisis (I should schedule these things better). Now supposed that I was a 75 year old woman who wanted to get a new tablet (my improv skills come in handy here). Do I get an iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook Color or some other thing I’ve never heard of? Would I even know of anything other than the iPad? What is it supposed to do anything? How much do I want to bother my son with question about the new thing? Etc.

So, I finally get myself to the doctor’s office. What do I say? What is relevant? What is too much information? Did I leave something out? Am I falling into the “ask your doctor about [sponsored drug name here]” trap? Now suppose that I need custom software to solve some problem. How much does the program need to match my current process? Do I care if it is written in Java, .NET or X86 Assembler? How do I know if the software vender is any good?

As a programmer, Search is my friend; I can Bing with Google and get quick answers to my programming query. I can even tell the good from the bad. When I searched for medical stuff over the last couple of weeks, I would find things to feed my paranoia. (Things like “Lung Cancer”, “Throat Cancer”, anything else with “Cancer” in the name; my perceptions of my symptoms would morph to match WebMD.) When a customer (or friend or family member) finds some article about I’m doing that turns out to be less than relevant or downright dangerous, I should think about my experience with WebMD and deal with them gently.

So, what, I don’t understand this whole medical stuff. What I am trying to do here is suggest that I can use this pain to emphasize with my customers. I mean I can’t forget all the things that I know about programming and technology and even if I did, I would still think different. So when they appear to struggle in my area, I need to remember what it was like to struggle in someone else’s area.

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